I recently came across and article in The Atlantic, which reported that Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev had suggested that perhaps the suffix –stan was responsible for Kazakhstan’s low global profile. He mentioned Mongolia, as a country that continues to attract international attention despite its still small economy and population. Perhaps a name change would help Kazakhstan develop a stronger international profile, he mused.
There is really only one good Russian response to this: Здравствуйте! ('hello' or in this case more like a saracastic 'good morning'). On the one hand this could just have been a interesting idea that the President was playing around with, which has no serious implications for the future of the country or his perception of its position in world affairs. On the other hand, it could point to some serious misconceptions on Nazarbayev's part.
Let's start with the statement that Mongolia has somehow benefited as a result of not being called something like Mongolistan. But, for every available economic indicator, Kazakhstan greatly outperforms Mongolia. This is, naturally, to be expected. Kazakhstan is a oil producing state, has a much larger population, and was more developed at the dissolution of the Soviet Union, giving it a greater starting point. Just looking at FDI, Kazakhstan hosts a huge figure at $111.5 billion, while Mongolia stands at just $4.5 billion! Anecdotally, it is more that clear enough that many more businessmen, students, policy makers, and analysts take a direct interest in Kazakhstan than in Mongolia when it comes to current affairs (naturally, I would suspect that Mongolia can command more than its fair share of historians). While it is beyond the scope of this casual blog post to offer a full comparison, I feel confident in saying that Kazakhstan's international profile is significantly more pronounced than Mongolia's.
That said, I would suspect that Nazarbayev was more concerned with a different kind of indicator, namely something more related to soft power. (I detailed Mongolia's «small power» here). In this case, Mongolia is certainly outperforming Kazakhstan, and it has nothing to do with a little Perso-Turkic suffix. Mongolia is a proven democracy, and has consistently shown its committment to engaging with the international community and improving its own democratic credentials. While Mongolia has eshewed further deepening its relationship with the Russian Federation, Kazakhstan is part of the Eurasian Custom's Union and CIS, tieing it to the Russian Federation. While Mongolia has sought to further its relationship with the European Union and North America, Kazakhstan remains a difficult partner because of its authoritarian political system and continued abuses of basic civil/human rights. Even with these limitations, Kazakhstan does enjoy good relations with the E.U. and the United States, but the relationship remains limited, largely as a result of Kazakhstan's own domestic and foreign policy choices. While Mongolia has sought to rise above its own geographical position, Kazakhstan's leadership continues to avoid a more balanced relationship with the Russian Federation, to the direct detriment of its other foreign policy goals. (In fact, Kazakhstan's political system is also a key reason for the underdeveloped nature of Kazakhstan-Mongolian relations, outlined here).
At the end of the day, Kazakhstan's economy is stronger and its economic ties to North America and Europe outperform Mongolia on most indicators. If Kazakhstan has any lessons to learn from Mongolia it is that democracy matters as much as a domestic policy as a lever for diplomatic relations. Democracy matters, names and suffixs don't.
Mongolia’s Democratic Gains
The fourth and final post in the series summarizing key sections of my M.A. thesis, looks at what Mongolia has to gain from its democratic credentials. I have argued this point in previous posts, but present it here in relations to part 3 of the series.
The expression “not all that glitters is gold” is perhaps best rephrased for our purposes as “not all that democratizes will become a democracy”. When Mongolia became an official democracy, no one was sure how a small state with less than 3 million people would manage to produce a real democracy in-between the authoritarian PRC and the uncertain democratization of the newly established Russian Federation. However, all available indicators support that it accomplished just that.
Mongolia’s democratic transition was largely based on domestic political will. Real democratization ultimately is an “exercise in national political self-determination. True democratization has to be domestically driven otherwise it will lack legitimacy. Mongolia was ranked at 6.23 by Democracy Index 2011, 6.36 in 2010 , 6.6 in 2008 , and 6.6 and 2006 , on a 10 point scale, meaning that it has been consistently ranked as a “flawed democracy”, which while admitting its problems, firmly ranks Mongolia as a democracy above hybrid and authoritarian regimes. Freedom House has ranked Mongolia as “free” for all available years (2002-2012). Although Mongolia is still a developing democracy, it is hard to argue that it is not a functioning one. Signs of increased civil society engagement and contested election results are actually a sign of a thriving democratic system, where the ability to change the status quo is recognized and a number of political parties are competing against each other.
U.S. and E.U. support to Mongolian Democracy
High profile visits are an important indication of bilateral ties and entail some level of prestige and significance to relationships between nations. Between the U.S. and Mongolia, several high-profile visits have highlighted the slowly deepening relationship between these two distant countries, often making explicit mention to Mongolia’s democratic status (see Table 2 for a list of the most prominent visits).
2005: Rep. Dennis Hastert2005: President George Bush
2011: Vice-President Joe Biden
2012: Secretary of State Hilary Clinton
To the United States of America
1991: President Ochirbat
2001: Prime Minister Enkhbayar
2004: President Bagabandi
2011: President Elbegdorj
Outside of high-profile diplomacy, the U.S. has also signaled its support for Mongolia and the value it places on Mongolian democracy in a number of other statements and institutional mechanisms. The U.S.-Mongolia Friendship Caucus seeks to educate and inform U.S. politicians on Mongolia, focusing on Mongolia’s political system and the reform process. The International Republican Institute (IRI) began working in Mongolia in 1992, working explicitly to support democratic governance and institutional development. In 2010, the U.S. Embassy hosted events celebrating the 20th anniversary of Mongolia’s “decision for democracy”, during which then-Ambassador Addleton identified democracy as one of five pillars of U.S.-Mongolian relations. In July 2011, Mongolia was granted Presidency of the Community of Democracies, and will host a meeting of the organization in 2013. The organization makes clear reference to Mongolia as an example of successful democratization and simultaneous political and economic transitions.
The United States recognizes that Mongolia is an important partner as it continues to shift its diplomatic focus to the Asia-Pacific. Mongolia is a U.S./international successful story for democratization and has been held up as a model of Asian democratization, in particular. The U.S. has stated that its goals in Mongolia are not geostrategic in nature, and that the U.S. is, instead, focused on helping develop “a base of democracy” in Mongolia. Mongolian democracy contributes to the country’s stability in an area defined by such authoritarian powers as Russia and China. The United States sees its own security as dependent on the domestic political stability of other states, and sees Mongolia’s democratic system as a potential balancing force against authoritarianism in the region.
Mongolia’s proven commitment to democracy is also in line with E.U. global goals, particularly as they concern Central Asia. Mongolia’s accession to the Organization for Security and Co-operation (OSCE) in Europe on November 22, 2012 is a clear indication that Europe and Mongolia are coming closer together on a number of issues. As the official announcement was being made, the OSCE Secretary General noted that Mongolia’s participation would allow the organization to better tackle transnational issues, while Mongolia stood to benefit from the OSCE’s expertise in democratic transitions. These shared values are defined as respect for human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. The Partnership and Cooperation Agreements also explicitly support democratic development. The U.S. responded to this announcement in a similar fashion, citing the accession as an indicator of Mongolia’s importance to the democratic community as an example of a successful transition from communism to democracy. A number of European development projects in Mongolia are handled directly by the European Institute for Democracy and Human Rights, which aims to encourage democratic institutional reform and support for human rights, specifically regarding the rights of inmates and sexual minorities. Furthermore, Germany’s Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) political foundation has taken an active role in supporting Mongolia’s democratization through seminar trainings and programs to strengthen decentralization efforts. Europe began developing relations with democratic Mongolia at a slower pace than the United States, but the proximity of Eastern Europe to Eurasia and a shared history between Mongolia and many Eastern European nations under the Soviet Union sets the groundwork for more multifaceted relations in the future.
Mongolian democracy stands out in stark contrast to it neighbors, Russia and China, as well as across the larger post-communist world, such as the Central Asian authoritarian states Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan. Despite all its “robustness/rowdiness”, the Mongolian political system is clearly democratic. A perfect democracy where all citizens have an equal say and where the government is equally responsive to all its citizens’ demands does not exist. From Hilary Clinton’s statement in Ulaanbaatar in support of democratization, it can be observed that Mongolia is becoming one of the poster countries for democracy and the rewards, stability, and development benefits that are associated with this political system. Mongolia can be held against claims that democracy is not for Asia. This is by no means meant to suggest that Mongolia’s own motivation in democratizing was to attract “Western” favor; rather, the point is that once democratized, the benefits to the Mongolian state and population were international as well domestic.
At the same time, Mongolia has been able to actively leverage its democratic credentials as part of its efforts to adapt to the post-communist international system and fulfill its “third neighbor policy.” Mongolia’s Concept of Foreign Policy states that the country’s foreign policy is guided by international norms such as respect for human rights and freedoms. The Concept of National Security of Mongolia identifies the country’s democratic government as key to the state’s continued security in the sectors of civil rights and information security. Furthermore, Mongolia’s democratic government distinguishes it a region defined by Russia, China, and the Central Asian states.
Does democracy matter? It seems that democracy is a potential tool that Mongolia can and has used to increase its attractiveness as a partner for U.S., E.U., and potentially other leading democracies. Attracting this interest is a key factor in Mongolia’s foreign policy, since it allows Mongolia to command a larger number of “third neighbors” as a counterbalance to Russian and especially Chinese influence. It is crucial that Mongolia implements a strong policy of diversification. Indeed, as a small state between giants, it knows only too well that over dependence on any one power will not afford it the sovereignty and autonomous decision-making power that it needs to survive as an independent state. If Mongolia’s democratization was not a factor and the country’s natural resources, growing economy, and/or strategic location were the only factors influencing relations with the U.S. and E.U., we might still expect some diplomatic gestures (Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are also OSCE participating states). However, we would not see the level of high profile visits, the institutional support, or rhetorical references to Mongolia as a responsible stakeholder. We would also see more emphasis on economic ties and perhaps stronger military relations.
 Fish, M.Steven. “The Inner Asian Anomaly: Mongolia’s Democratization in Comparative Perspective.” Communist and Post-Communist Studies 34, no. 3 (September 2001). P. 323
 Burnell, From Assistance to Appraising, p. 414
 Ibid., p. 421
 Democracy Index 2011
 Democracy Index 2010
 Democracy Index 2008
 Democracy Index 2006
 Freedom House, 2002-2012
 As reported by the Embassy of Mongolia in the United States of American: http://www.mongolianembassy.us/mongolia_and_usa/us_mongolia_friendship_caucus.php. (Accessed on December 4, 2012).
 As reported on IRI’s official website: http://www.iri.org/countries-and-programs/asia/mongolia (Accessed on December 4, 2012).
 “Ambassador Addelton’s Remarks at the Asia Society Breakfast: Warm Relations in a Cold Place: The United States and Mongolia,” Embassy of the United States in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, June 14, 2011. http://mongolia.usembassy.gov/speeches_061411.html (Accessed on December 4, 2012).
 The White House, U.S.-Mongolia Joint Statement
 See the Community of Democracies official website: http://community-democracies.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2&Itemid=3
 Noerper, Ten Things We Get from Mongolia. p. 1
 Narangoa, Preventative Diplomacy, p. 373
 Wachman, NBR, p. 5
 “Secretary General welomes Mongolia to OSCE, stresses added value to security community,” OSCE News (November 22, 2012). (Accessed on December 4, 2012).
 Statement by High Representative Catherine Ashton Following the Legislative Elections in Mongolia on 28 June 2012, 2012.
 European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights
 “U.S. Envoy on Mongolia as OSCE Participating State,” IIP Digital (November 22, 2012). http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/st/english/texttrans/2012/11/20121123139050.html#axzz2E82SDh1V (Accessed on December 4, 2012).
 “EU supports Mongolia’s Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) sector with 7 mln euro project,” Delegation of European Union to Mongolia, May 31, 2012. http://eeas.europa.eu/delegations/mongolia/press_corner/all_news/news/2012/20120531_01_en.htm (Accessed on December 4, 2012).
 For more information on KAS, please see: http://www.kas.de/mongolei/en/ (Accessed on December 4, 2012).
 As rated by Democracy Index
 Epstein, Democracy Promotion, p. 11
 Concept of Foreign Policy, Section II, Article 8
 The Concept of National Security of Mongolia, Section IV
Part 3 of the summary posts of my M.A. thesis will detail how and why the United States and Europe support international democratization. This post is integral to understanding the final post, which will detail what this means for small states using Mongolia as a detailed case study.
The European Union and the United States of America have been the leading forces in global democratization. The United States’ primary goal has been to increase global security through democratization support. The E.U., on the other hand, has been largely focused on fostering democratization in Eastern Europe as a step towards EU integration, and has only recently displayed real interest in extra-regional democratization efforts.
THE UNITED STATES
While U.S. foreign policy has favored democracies since the country’s independence, it was in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that the promotion of democracy became a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy and tied directly to the nation’s security. Democracy was viewed as essential for long-term stability and fighting terrorism around the globe. In the post-9/11 world, democratization became a U.S. strategic priority, being tied to two important concepts in democratization literature: democratic peace theory and the instability of authoritarian regimes. The Democratic Peace Theory maintains that democracies do not go to war with each other, meaning that with more democracies the world would be “safer” and more prosperous, thus furthering U.S. global and regional interests. A key caveat, however, is that the democratic peace theory seems to only apply to mature/established democracies, whereas transitional governments have proven far less stable. Democracy is supposed to facilitate long-term economic growth by allowing for the freedom of expression and innovation as well as promoting rule of law, which can foster predictability for investors and control corruption.
In terms of actually policy making, the U.S. has several key programs, including USAID and NED. USAID reported $1.5 billion dollars of expenditures directly related to the promotion of democracy in 2004; the National Endowment for Democracy provides funding for the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute for their non-governmental assistance to developing democracies. Through these programs the United States is able to reward democratizing regimes and further its own international interests.
EUROPE/ EUROPEAN UNION
The E.U. is the largest regional promoter of democracy; but the fact that it is comprised of sovereign member states, limits the extent to which one can identify a common foreign policy theme. However, the E.U. does possess several important mechanisms to further its democratization agenda, including membership privileges and a developing reputation as a moral international actor. The 2012 announcement that the E.U. would be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, underscores the E.U.’s achievements as a force for democratization and, by extension, global stability and human rights.
In order to begin the process of obtaining E.U. membership, states must demonstrate a commitment to democracy and human rights. E.U. membership, by extension, not only carries a number of important economic advantages, but also provides some level of security as well. Organizations such as the E.U. constrain the larger powers’ options and work to level the playing field between large and small states by awarding each country an equal vote. The “leverage”, provided by economic and security incentives, is integral to understanding the democratization of Eastern Europe.
While the U.S. can rely on the federal government as a direct source of democratization funding and support, the E.U. is more fragmented and as such democratization efforts are largely on a country-by-country basis. The largest democracy-promoters in the E.U. include the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy, Britain’s Westminster Foundation for Democracy, and Germany’s Stiftungen. While the E.U.’s foreign policy is largely handled by each of its member states individually, the promotion of democracy is probably the most accessible means to further its security interests. Democracy is both a goal and an instrument of European foreign policy, meaning that not only does the E.U. foster democratization for the stability and peace that are assumed to arise from this form of governance, but it also recognizes that simply by appearing to support democratization, the E.U. is looked upon more favorably. While the E.U. was devoted to the democratization of Eastern Europe immediately following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, today Europe is looking to promote democracy in various strategic areas, such as Central/Inner Asia and the Caucasus.
The European Parliament, through such initiatives as the European Foundation for Democracy through Partnership (EPD), the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights, and the Democracy Caucus at the European Parliament, takes an active role in pan-E.U. foreign policy.
 Lagon, Mark P. Promoting Democracy : The Whys and Hows for the United States and the International Community. New York City, 2011. p. 3
 Dalacoura, Katerina. “US Foreign Policy and Democracy Promotion in the Middle East : Theoretical Perspectives and Policy Recommendations.” Ortadogu Etutleri 2, no. 3 (2010). p. 60
 Epstein, Democracy Promotion, p. 8
 Lagon, Promoting Democracy, p. 2
 Burnell, From Assistance to Appraising, p. 416
 Wivel, Small E.U. Member States, p. 395
 Ibid. p. 423
 Wivel, Small E.U. Member States, p. 416
 Olsen, Democracy as a Foreign Policy Instrument, p. 143
 Ibid., p. 144
As of December 19th, my M.A. thesis was officially accepted, and I closed my M.A. Asia Pacific Policy Studies program. I was the first student in my program to write a thesis and finish in a year and half! Indeed, I am surprised it all worked out so smoothly with writing a thesis, taking 2 classes, applying to 8 PhD programs, and studying for the GRE!
The thesis, Small Power: Mongolia's Democratization and Foreign Policy Objectives, explores the following:
Small states are in a unique position, where they cannot hope to meet their foreign policyand security objectives through hard power. Rather, small states must balance against large neighbors via more subtle and nuanced ways. Through a critique of soft power, the author presents a new analytical framework for understanding small power and new criteria for defining “smallness” in today’s international system. Small power attempts to explain small state foreign policy decision-making and the role that “attractiveness” plays in their relations with larger states. One potential source of small power- democratic governance- is explored through a detailed look at the Mongolian model of democratization as a foreign policy tool in its “third neighbor policy”. Successful democratic transitions in small states can attract more security related,economic, and institutional support from leading democratic countries than their small size might initially suggest.
For anyone interested, my full thesis is available at http://hdl.handle.net/2429/43714
I am now on my way to California, where I will be awaiting decision letters from PhD programs and the Fulbright Commission. In the coming weeks/months, I will have more time for frequent posting, including a number of posts based on my research for the thesis, some impressions of my M.A. program, and a number of other topics fitting into SMALL MATTERS. I also intend to publish a number of short book reviews, which I hope will prove useful...to my 3 readers...;)
Three months after the Mongolian Parliamentary elections, another previously Communist country has gone to the polls. Georgia has managed to develop a strong relationship with the United States and Europe, and its elections on October 1 are being closely monitored by international agencies. What are the results of this election and what do Georgia and Mongolia tell us about the post-Communist democratic experience?
Georgia’s October 1, 2012 Elections
First of all, the results are far from clear at this point, with both major parties claiming a majority-win of 150-member parliament. That means a total of at least 76 seats, combined from 73 directly elected and 77 proportional. (http://civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=25276) While the country’s Central Election Commission is unlikely to release even preliminary results until tomorrow, both President Saakashvili- head of the ruling United National Movement- and Bidzina Ivanishvili- opposition leader of the Georgian Dream Coalition- have claimed a majority win. Some exit polls suggested a slight advantage for the opposition, but since the polls were taken 4 hours before all voting was to stop, their usefulness has rightly been called into question. In his most recent statement, President Saakashvili claimed that while the opposition might have won the proportional race, it is clear that UNM faired far better in the directly elected seats, and would maintain its majority status in the Parliament. It seems that Tbilisi voters as a whole supported the opposition, but that outside of the capital, support for the ruling UNM remained strong. Most recently Ivanishvili claimed that the opposition had won at least 100 seats, putting it well ahead of the number needed for a clear majority.
As we wait for the official numbers to be released, it is worth noting that the results of this hotly debated election may remain contested for some time. Already, a number of complaints are surfacing regarding voting irregularities, with reports ranging from votes being cast without voter ID cards, to polling station officials openly supporting one party over another; but, note that nothing major has been reported. It is, of course, too early to know whether these irregularities are on a scale large enough to actually “buy” the election. As anyone familiar with Mongolian elections would instantly recognize, sometimes the allegations of fraud are just as shady and clouded in mystery as the irregularities themselves.
Regarding the issues, it is clear that Georgians went to the polls with three major concerns: prison reform and human rights, Russian-Georgian relations, and (closely tied to the second issue) how to approach the status of de facto independent South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Just weeks before the election, a video was released showing the abuse of prisoners in a prominent Georgian detention facility, badly damaging the authority of the ruling party. Some have blamed Saakashvili for his handling of the South Ossetia crisis and the 2008 Russo-Georgian War. Ivanishvili, having made his fortune on Russian business ties, seems ready to begin the long process of resetting relations. While Georgian-Russian relations might not thaw anytime soon, with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev refusing to meet with Saakashvili, a change in power might be necessary from a foreign policy standpoint.
Comparing Mongolia and Georgia
Looking back at our (Mongolia Today’s writers’) experience in following Mongolian political developments, particularly the June 2012 Parliamentary election, a couple of important patterns seem to arise, regarding elections in new democracies.
Experience Matters. Mongolia has had slightly more experience with holding multi-party elections than Georgia, and it seems to show. In Mongolia’s most recent election, many analysts, Mongolian and international alike, were predicting huge problems with the new voting machines, voter registration, and voter ID cards. Despite the “rowdy” outcomes in the election this June, the procedure itself seemed largely flawless from my perspective as an international observer. All polling stations we visited seemed organized and the staff well trained. (See: http://blogs.ubc.ca/mongolia/2012/brief-election-observation-break-update/) The reports coming out of Georgia today look more like the claims lobbied against Mongolia 4 years ago. However, comparing Mongolia and Georgia’s history of electoral politics, Mongolia has seen 6 successful Parliamentary and 5 Presidential elections. Georgia, on the other hand, experienced a coup shortly after declaring independence from the Soviet Union, resulting in a new national leader that would not be replaced until the 2003 Rose Revolution. Following the Rose Revolution, Saakashvili was elected as President in 2004.
Mongolia has already been forced to deal with issues such as voter registration, ID cards, and fraud allegations. While they don’t always get it right, they seem to get closer following each election.
A rowdy democracy is still a democracy. The only thing for sure so far in the Georgian election is that nothing is clear, the campaigns were messy and “dirty”, the opposition was not well organized, but was able to garner significant support, and the prison scandal significantly weakened the UNM’s legitimacy and may have effected the final vote as well. If I was writing this post on Mongolia in June, I could have said almost the exact same thing, just substituting the arrest of Enkhbayar for the prison scandal. The good news is that “rowdiness” is hardly a bad sign for a developing democracy. Indeed, increased civil society involvement, a growing opposition, and the ability for observers to report irregularities are all signs of a thriving democratic system.
Trust Matters. Dr. Julian Dierkes and myself have remarked on how a lack of trust between political parties in Mongolia affects the results of elections and voter turn out in Mongolia, in our piece in East Asia Forum. Georgia’s UNM and Dream Coalition are likewise wary of each other, with Ivanishvili having guessed early on that Saakashvili would not relinquish his hold on power and Saakashvili openly accusing the opposition of having ties to the Kremlin.
Elections are the Proof in the Democratic Pudding. I argue that both Mongolia and Georgia are eager to prove their democratic credentials and avoid backsliding on their domestic reforms and commitments to human rights. While democratic development is ultimately dependent on domestic factors, both Mongolia and Georgia have formulated their foreign policy and security objectives with an eye to attracting the involvement of the US, EU, and NATO as a balance against their larger, potential threatening neighbors. (See:http://miliatematters.com/Small_Matters/Blog/Entries/2012/7/26_Thoughts_on_Third_Neighbor_Policy.html) Elections such as today’s in Georgia and Mongolia this past June are important bricks in the wall of democratic proof that both countries can leverage their relations with the world’s leading democratic powers.
Mongolia’s experience over the past 22 years has cemented its civil society and democratic system, reaching the “point of no return”. While Georgia has had a different, and significantly more turbulent political and social history following independence, it has already managed to attract attention to its fledgling democracy, at least in part as a result of the 2008 conflict with Russia, which turned the world’s attention to the little Caucasian country. Mongolia, on the other hand, had to prove that its democracy was real in the shadow of the world’s largest authoritarian states: The Russian Federation and the PRC. Historical and geographic differences might not make the Mongolian-Georgian comparison obvious, but both certainly have something to say about small state democratization and foreign policy.
Analysis, Thoughts, Ideas
This blog will be an online publishing site for smaller analytical projects, news stories that I find relevant to small state foreign policy and indigenous autonomy, as well as a testing ground for new ideas and new projects that I may pursue.